“That’s great, but if you’re not telling your kids, that’s weird,” Mr. Jaffe said. “If that’s what you believe in, why wouldn’t you tell your kids that ‘we’re a very wealthy family, but our values say we’re going to put most of it into a philanthropy, and we’re all going to work and do something on our own’?”
You Are Anxious, and Talking Will Make It Worse
Talking to your children about sex, drugs and drinking can help release anxiety for a parent. They’ve done their job and protected their child. But talking about wealth, Mr. Jaffe said, often increases a parent’s anxiety.
“What you fear is your kids will see it differently,” he said. “But the fact is when people say, ‘I don’t want my kids to know we’re wealthy,’ I say, ‘Look around your house.’”
That anxiety can be heightened by a feeling of not knowing what to talk about or when or with whom.
“When you talk about ‘these conversations,’ what does that mean?” asked Michael Liersch, global head of wealth planning and advice for J.P. Morgan Private Bank. “Is it money or the balance sheet or roles and expectations in the family or family values?”
Unlike some other anxiety-filled talks, conversations about family wealth aren’t cued by a stage of life.
“When they’re 15, you’re primed to teach them how to drive,” said Bradley T. Klontz, a financial psychologist and professor at Creighton University. “But there is no set time to say, ‘We’re going to sit the kids down and tell them about our estate plan and bring them in with the C.P.A. and attorney and tell them what’s going on.’”
The thought of a series of discussions can be overwhelming to parents who feel ill prepared for the questions their children will have.